Over 1,000 minibus taxi owners operating in Addis Abeba with "Code-3" license plates are caught in a dilemma in their attempt to qualify for federal fuel subsidies.

Federal transport officials plan to begin phasing out subsidies next month. Most vehicle owners will pay full prices at pumping stations within a year; public transport vehicles are set to see subsidies lowered progressively in five years. The Ethiopian Roads Fund is compiling a list of cars entitled to continue receiving the subsidies, collecting information from regional states and municipality transport bureaus.

Vehicles whose information is not included in the list sent from transport bureaus will not be eligible, according to Abdulber Shemsu, deputy director of the Roads Fund.

The Addis Abeba Transport Bureau dispatches public transport vehicles in the capital, including those with regional license plates. However, city officials say the regional transport bureaus which issued license plates to the vehicle owners are responsible for registering them, although the vehicles have been operating in the capital. Coloured white, the "Code-3" minibus taxis provide public transportation services alongside 10,000 vehicles in the capital. Their owners face hurdles in knowing which government office to register them for continued subsidies.

“The law doesn’t allow us to register these vehicles,” said Dawit Yeshitela, head of the Transport Bureau.

The conundrum faced by white minibus taxis tells of ill-preparedness for the impending subsidy removal. It revealed how little organised the authorities are to end the fuel subsidies, says Berhanu Zeleke (PhD), lecturer of transport management at Kotebe Metropolitan University.

“Authorities responsible for issuing license plates and dispatches should identify the issue well before the deadline approaches,” he said.

Transport authorities have thus far identified a quarter of a million vehicles providing public transport services in the country. The blue-and-white taxi associations have their members registered with the city's Transport Bureau, Zerihun Berhane, head of one of the associations, told Fortune.

“This doesn’t include the white minibuses," he said.

An owner of a Code-3 minibus, who is not a member of a taxi association, has been providing transport services in Addis Abeba after receiving a dispatch order from the city's Transport Bureau. Although he lives in the Betel area of the Kolfe Qeraniyo District, he received his license plate from the transport authorities in the Oromia Regional State. He makes 700 Br a day from his work.

“I've no idea where I can register to continue receiving fuel subsidies,” he told Fortune.

The Oromia Transport Bureau has thus far registered 71,000 public transport vehicles.

“We submitted the list to federal agencies and Ethio telecom,” said Getachew Abebe, director of transport supply of the Oromia Transport Bureau.

Transport vehicle owners and drivers will use Ethio telecom's Telebirr mobile money platform to pay for fuel once the subsidy lift-off begins. A pilot programme to integrate vehicles' owners with Telebirr started in Addis Abeba last month. Getachew says the government office dispatched the taxis is responsible for registering them. The white minibus taxis are required to have membership in a taxi association registered in Oromia for registration with his office.

“The agency that dispatches them must submit their list for us to see their cases,” Getachew told Fortune.

Close to 1,500 vehicles provide public transport services in the Oromia Special Zone around the capital.

Two weeks ago, the minibus owners went to the Ethio telecom customer service centre at the main Post Office on Churchill Road and opened accounts. Vehicle owners with title deeds and identification cards can open accounts with Telebirr, according to Mesay Wubishet, head of communications.

“We notify the authorities after opening accounts,” said Mesay.

The white minibus taxis pictured above differ from their blue-and-white counterparts in that they have "Code-3" license plates. Their owners are struggling to register for eligibility to continue receiving fuel subsidies as various government offices claim the mandate does not lie with them.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 25,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1156]

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